Gov. Northam expands mask mandate, limits social gatherings to 10 people

Gov. Northam expands mask mandate, limits social gatherings to 10 people
Gov. Ralph Northam holding a press briefing in Richmond. (Source: VPM)

RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Governor Ralph Northam held a COVID-19 briefing Thursday, December 10, where he announced new COVID-19 restrictions.

Gov. Northam introduced the following restrictions that will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Dec. 14, and will be in place until at least January 31:

  • A modified stay-at-home order, with a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. unless you have to travel for work.
  • Masks are now required for all indoor settings, as well as outdoors when you can’t maintain social distance.
  • Social gatherings are limited to 10 people. The restrictions on restaurants remain unchanged.

“I hear people talk about their rights, and I’m all about rights” Northam said. “But I think we need to talk about responsibility. I think all of us have a responsibility right now to look out for our fellow mankind.”

The new restrictions also address spectators at recreational sports. For indoor sports, there is a limit of 25 people per field. For outdoor sports, 2 guests per player will be allowed.

The governor is also encouraging Virginians to telework if they are able.

Governor Northam Newser 12-10-20

Northam also says they’re stepping up enforcement efforts of restrictions. The governor says about 90% of people are doing the right thing, but there are those who are not. When asked about enforcement of restrictions, he said it will be similar to what they’re already been doing with businesses.

COVID-19 vaccinations may start in Virginia as early as this weekend, pending FDA approval.

Northam says he doesn’t understand who flaunt the rules, especially since it is so easy to wear a mask and to stay home when you can.

When asked about some private schools being open when public schools are virtual, Northam says there is no one-size-fits-all solution and so he is continuing to let localities make those decisions.

Northam says a lot of COVID-19 cases are coming from in-person religious worshiping where folks didn’t follow mask-wearing or social-distancing rules. The commonwealth does not enforce restrictions in houses of worship.

“This year we need to think about what is truly the most important things. Is it the worship or the building?” Northam asked. “For me God is wherever you are. Worship with a mask on is still worship. Outside or online is still worship.”

In closing, Northam acknowledged that the holidays this year will look different, but looking ahead, he says he sees optimism and hope.

Copyright 2020 WVIR. All rights reserved.


12/10/2020 Release from the Office of Governor Ralph S. Northam:

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced new, targeted measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 as new cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in all areas of the commonwealth. Executive Order Seventy-Two directs Virginians to stay at home between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., implements a universal mask requirement, and lowers the limit on social gatherings from 25 people to 10 people. The order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14 and remain in place through January 31, 2021, unless rescinded or amended.

“New daily case numbers are higher than they have been at any previous point in the pandemic, and while the trends in Virginia are better than most of the country, we are taking action now to slow the spread of this virus before our hospitals get overwhelmed,” said Governor Northam. “We already have strong public health measures in place, and with these additional steps, we can turn this around. Virginians, if you don’t have to be out, stay at home. Whenever we are around other people, we all need to wear a mask, indoors and out.”

“These are common-sense things we can all do to take care of each other and stay safe. This is not about getting people in trouble—this is about everyone doing their part and reducing opportunities for people to get sick.”

The following mitigation measures will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14:

· Modified Stay at Home Order: All individuals in Virginia must remain at their place of residence between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Exceptions include obtaining food and goods, traveling to and from work, and seeking medical attention.

· Universal mask requirement: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor settings shared with others and when outdoors within six feet of another person. This order expands the current statewide mask mandate, which has been in place since May 29, and requires all individuals aged five and over to wear face coverings in indoor and outdoor public settings outside of their own household. These changes are consistent with new CDC guidelines, released December 4, which recommend universal wearing of face coverings.

· Reduction in social gatherings: All social gatherings must be limited to 10 individuals, down from the current cap of 25 people. Social gatherings include, but are not limited to, parties, celebrations, or other social events, regardless of whether they occur indoors or outdoors. This does not apply to religious services, employment settings, or educational settings. Restaurants and retail stores are already governed by strict social distancing requirements, and are not included in this limit.

· Continued limits on dining establishments: Virginia restaurants are currently governed by strict social distancing and sanitization requirements, which remain in place. The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol remains prohibited after 10:00 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms must close by midnight.

· Teleworking: Employees that can telework are strongly encouraged to do so.

While Virginia’s new cases per capita remain lower than 43 other states, all of the Commonwealth’s five health regions are experiencing increases in COVID-19 cases, positive tests, and hospitalizations. Virginia is currently averaging more than 3,700 new COVID-19 cases per day, up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May. Statewide test positivity rate is at 11 percent, an increase from 7 percent approximately one month ago. More than 2,000 Virginians are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 statewide, an increase of over 80 percent in the last four weeks.

The full text of Executive Order Seventy-Two, which incorporates earlier Executive Orders Sixty-Three Sixty-Seven is available here.

For information about COVID-19 in Virginia, visit vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.